FESTUS IYAYI: A TRIBUTE by Salihu Lukman @smlukman November 14, 2013Posted by seunfakze in Uncategorized.
add a comment
Festus Iyayi: A Tribute
Salihu Moh. Lukman
The name Festus Iyayi symbolizes struggle for academic freedom, democratization of our educational system, national development and socialism. He was the President of Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) in the 1980s and in 1987, under his leadership; the Babangida administration banned ASUU, terminated the employment of Prof. Iyayi from University of Benin and subsequently arrested, detained and tortured him.
It is to the credit of Prof. Iyayi and ASUU leadership that ASUU survived those repressive measures and is operating based on its founding principles. Most organizations, even when they survive hardly are able to make any claims to values.
No doubt, the 1980s was a defining period for popular organizations in Nigeria. It was a period that the Federal Government under the military virtually declared a war against freedom to organize and to that extent declared leaders of organizations as subversives.
In the circumstance, organizations like ASUU, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) faced direct attacks especially under military rule between1984 and 1999. During this period, these organizations were banned severallyand the leadership persecuted, victimized, arrested and detained without trials for months.
Laws were promulgated by government to justify these and in some cases, these laws besides coming with ouster clauses that disqualify our courts from entertaining cases bordering on enforcement of fundamental rights of victims (most of whom are leaders of these organizations), they in some cases even face charges of life and death sentences.
Without any questions, the capacity of organizations to survive those dark periods was challenged and leaders likelate Dr. Mahmud Tukur, Prof. Iyayi, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Alh. Hassan Sumonu,Alh. Ali Ciroma, Comrades Wahab Goodluck, Dapo Fatogun, late Chris Abashi, Lanre Arogundade, Hilkiya Bubajoda, Emma Ezeazu and many others were illustrious in their contributions.
ASUU provided the intellectual foundation for the radical orientation of these organizations to resist and outlive military rule. Sadly, NANS is way distant from its radical nationalist orientation of the 1980s. NLC live in virtually its old glory. Both for NANS and NLC, values may just be limited to bearing a “Comrade” title with hardly any meaning.
More than any organization, ASUU has remained consistent and was able to grow a community of leaders with organic links to wider society. Unlike NLC and NANS, the community of leaders in ASUU have till today sustained ASUU’s organizational focus, orientation and commitment to broader values of national development, which has underpinned its demands and struggles over the years. In the Nigerian context, ASUU is one of the few nongovernmental organizations that has been consistent and in many respect still linked to all its leadership since it was founded.
It was this link that explains Prof. Iyayi’s role and why he was traveling for ASUU NEC meeting on the fateful day, Tuesday, November 12 and lost his life. The pain of Iyayi’s loss has made many of us to ask questions that are at best immaterial. Of course, for many whoonly know Prof. Iyayi remotely, their response reflect a confusion of what may happen to the expected suspension of the three months old ASUU strike.
For those us who were privileged to know Prof. Iyayi, I am not sure any word can convey our feeling. It is a feeling that border on admiration, respect and obedience. I was privileged to serve as NANS President 1988/89 at a time when Students’ Unions were banned in almost all tertiary institutions in the country.
In July 1988 when we were elected, our primary mandate was the re-activation of Students’ Union structures in the country. In the face of repressive measures, a team of more than 20 students leaders from all over the country was basically reduced to a team of four. The first person that resigned from that Exco was the NANS Secretary whose father being a Deputy Commissioner of Police was threatened.
For many of us, it was a period that exposed us to the fact that there are Nigerians that have broken all barriers and risen above all primordial sentiments. These Nigerians related with us in very special ways. Although not older than their children, they discussed every issue with us with respect, treated us like their peers, which in many respects challenged our intellect. In the process, we had good access to academic literature.
Prof. Iyayi, the community of intellectuals in ASUU, patriotic leaders of NLC and other Nigerians really made us who we are today. Without the support of these people, many of us who grow through the ranks of the student movement would have simply evaporated into the confused Nigerian society that recognizes no skill or talent.
Unfortunately, some of us who are privileged to find themselves in the corridors of power forget this fact. Agood example was the way Labaran Maku, current Minister of Information, described Dr. Dipo Fashina as a “character” during the January 2012 fuel subsidy strike. This was to say the least an uncharitable statement coming from Labaran who was a product of the sacrifices of people like Iyayi and Dipo. As brothers and comrades, we have a responsibility to be brutally frank to each other.
Part of the calamity that has befallen us is the fact that we made very stupid mistakes on account of which some of our best are today serving one of the worst governments produced in this country. I am certain this will be contested largely on opportunistic grounds. However, I can accept that at the end of it all the basis of all justifications is simply our stupid mistakes of not engaging the Abdulsalami transition programme in1998 in an organized way. On account of this mistake, people like Labaran have taken individual decisions and may have forgotten their own history.
This highlight a strong disconnect between those of us who have passed through the mentorship of people like Iyayi. One cannot but salute the capacity of that old community of leaders that include Prof. Iyayi, Dr. Fashina, Prof. Olorode, Alh. Sumonu, etc. Somehow,these leaders must be going through traumatizing experiences of having to absorb all these shocks and continue to provide unwavering leadership in the struggles for Nigeria’s development.
Part of the criticism against ASUU is the fact that it has only one weapon of fighting bad governance and dictatorship. That weapon is STRIKE. Under democracy, there are other weapons, which include lobbying National Assembly. Of course, given the realities facing us, it islegitimate to have low confidence with respect to outcomes of engagement with National Assembly. There is also the fact that strikes have worked very well for ASUU. Since the early 1990s, all ASUU strikes have succeeded in terms of winning demands. In some ways therefore, ASUU and its leadership are only responding instinctively.
Perhaps, we need to find ways of engaging some of our leaders and mentors such that they are challenged to act more logically and scientifically. I have no direct answers with respect to this but I believe that strike, especially the current one, may not be the best logical and scientific answer to the problem of breach of contractual agreement. There are certainly other solutions. The best tribute we can give to Prof. Iyayi is for us all as a nation to commit ourselves to finding all the options at our disposal to address the problem of irresponsible conducts of our governments and leaders.
Prof. Iyayi would have been very much alive with us today but for the irresponsible conduct of our federal government to breach the agreement it willfully entered into with ASUU. On account of that breach, unquantifiable amount of resources have been wasted, including loss of lives. The loss of Prof. Iyayi is the high point. May it be the turning point such that as a people we are able to commit ourselves to rescuing this country? May the death of Prof. Iyayi awaken all of us to the need to discover new ways and methods of solving all our societal problems especially those created by the irresponsible conducts of our governments and leaders. Finally, may thedeath of Prof. Iyayi serve as the watershed in the struggle for higher education in the country such that strikes become the remotest of weapons and least employed?
Rest in peace Prof. Festus Iyayi!
RELIGIOUS PILGRIMS OR PLUNDERERS!? By ‘Seun Fakuade October 15, 2013Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, MORALITY.
Tags: Christianity. Islam, Christians, Muslims, Nigeria, religion
There are many rules to being apathetic in Nigeria. There are many issues that will draw the ire of sycophants and ethno-religious intolerants when you speak in Nigeria. I will state two of these:
- Do not speak about anything as regarding the government (the establishment), if you must; only say something positive about everything they do
- Do not talk about a religion in any way
Today, non-traditionally, these two will be the centre of my discourse. If you are religiously intolerant, or pro-establishment; this May be a good place to close this article.
You are probably wondering: how much is the fund allocated for religious pilgrimage by the Nigerian state in the 2013 budget? It is N1,800,000,000: precisely $1,090,909 (about $1.1m). I get it, why should we bother right? We must be worried because there is no loophole we should allow in justifying waste of public resources or allow to expropriate our public funds. Concerned citizens must not be wary about asking their leaders to come clean about every detail on how public funds are spent. Every kobo accounted for!
The Nigerian state has no business funding religious expeditions, it has no right categorizing nor has any justification secluding other religions from such ‘gift’. As a secular state, Nigeria has no right to restrict pilgrimage to Christianity and Islam alone. What about other religions? Today, many political thugs and criminals have become the beneficiaries of such government propaganda. In all the years Nigerian representatives have journeyed to the Holy lands! what has been Nigeria’s benefit: more poverty, crime, dropped educational standards, terrorism, more divisions!
Religious tourism to the holy grounds are no solutions to the myriad of problems confronting the Nigerian government. Every President in this nation has, by one way or the other, lent credence to this religious rite. At what cost to the Nigerian people? By all means, I do not trivialize the role of religion: it is the last bastion of hope, of survival, of belief, of expression; for countless millions. Certainly, The creator will, by no means, justify the plunder that goes on while professing to carry on his business.
Nigeria is shrouded in secrecy even though it makes claims at transparent spending. What steps have been made to explain in open terms how N1,800,000,000 was and will be expended on religious pilgrimages in 2013? None so far. Without restraints, without caution, Nigeria continually waste resources by Unjustifiably funding religious voyages. In the recent Mo Ibrahim good governance ranking, Nigeria polled 41 out of 52 (moibrahimfoundation.org/nigeria/).
Mo Ibrahim, whose foundation rewards African leaders on the indices of good governance and responsible leadership with $5m, only recently stated no winners for the fourth time in seven years. Why would any African leader want $5m from Mo Ibrahim when it steals (by all means possible) hundred times this amount? Malabu, like many other corruption cases in Nigeria, shows how African leadership justifies and loots from the people using conduits. How many people benefit from the lootocratic sleaze of this pilgrimage? What exact estacodes (foreign currency) comes to each person?
Imagine the estacodes that accrue to each entourage of the President, or each pilgrim benefiting from the largesse! The President, through his attack organs, consistently refutes claim about his entourage by the media. Asides this report by the Premium Times claiming 30,000 Nigerians making the trip to Isreal, (http://premiumtimesng.com/news/146610-president-jonathan-to-lead-30000-nigerian-christian-pilgrims-to-israel.html), no official releases follow this claim, no actual evidence validates the presidential claim to prudence and frugal leadership.
The President, with due respect, has lost the moral right to lead Nigeria in the fight against corruption. His political crooks and recent transformation agenda states otherwise, with claims “Fighting Corruption with the Rule Of Law”. The reality on ground is not only contrasting; it is in many ways dumbfounding, unethical, outrageous, ridiculous and saddening.
Sycophants, in their characteristic greed, would opine that the Jonathan administration does so much than it gets credit for. What credit do you award justifying/legalizing the loot of our system by any and every means possible? What message do we send our young people when we pardon national plunderers like Mr Alamieyesegha? What hope is there for posterity when it’s nation’s President justifies corruption and public treasure criminality? What hope does Nigeria have when our leaders never see anything wrong about this consistent loot of our public funds?
For nations whose enlightened citizens understand the import of frugal spending, open government, accountability and transparency; acts of national brigandage like this should attract the loudest ire, open criticism and retribution. Does it? Patriots must keep talking about the wrongs in the system so they do not get used to seeing it as the NORM, so they know the huge problem before their generation to solve, so they realize Nigeria is a long step from redemption if people (anyone) will keep justifying such national treasure brigandage under whatever auspices noticeable.
Religious pilgrimage funded by the government is no way to solve our woes. It is more legal ways to looting our national treasure, indeed to more plunder!
I am @seunfakze
#OurNASS: SILENT NO MORE September 22, 2013Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, MORALITY, POLITICS.
Tags: Legislators, National Assembly, Nigeria, Representatives, senators
In Nigeria, the tyranny of the minority, of crass opportunists, of about 469 elite members of the National Assembly has subjected millions of Nigerians to untold hardship and suffering. Corruption is Nigeria’s greatest challenge, its cure is openness, accountability and transparency. This will be put to test starting from the 26th of September, 2013.
In 8 years, the National Assembly; with 469 members have expended N1,000,000,000,000 (N1trillion) of public funds. These funds, alarmingly, are statutory transfers: whether the nation is in trouble or not, these funds are transferred to fund the ‘operations’ of the national assembly. Our representatives have lost their moral conscience to reject in every way possible, the most criminal form of raping its citizens. At different rates from 2005 (but consistent since 2009), the National Assembly transfers N150billion to its coffers at the detriment of the welfares of over 160million citizens.
N1trillion expended on 469 people in 8 years is a rape of the Nigerian people, whose welfare and concern should be chief to elected officers. Has N1trillion being spent to benefit the populace in 8 years? The implications of N1trillion in capital expenditure in Nigeria over 8 years are wide reaching:
Jobs: 100,000 jobless graduates can start their entrepreneurial outfit with N10million which ultimately has its chain of employing others within the business scope.
Farmers: young graduates can be employed from universities to revive the agricultural sector with wide ranging effect on Nigeria’s agricultural trade and export. Besides, agricultural implements and resources such as Tractors can be bought which undoubtedly have significant impact on the yield of products.
Technology Hubs: it is estimated that about N50million will run an effective hub. (20 hubs can be created from N1trillion)
Medical Tourism: The Nigerian Medical Association claims that Nigeria loses about $800m to medical tourism yearly (http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/09/nigeria-loses-800m-to-medical-tourism-yearly-nma/). Imagine the economic implications for our nation if we heavily invested N1trillion in our health sector.
Hospital Equipments: Every day, across our communities, women and children are endangered constantly because of lack of access to beds, drugs, power, etc. Many of our children die heavily because of lack of access to drugs for malaria, and we have a high toll on maternal deaths because of lack of access to basic healthcare resources.
Portable Water: Houses in Nigeria run as local governments, providing their water, power, security and other public amenities required to be provided by the government. Every society deserves basic access to clean water which ultimately solves a lot of the health challenges in the nation (Typhoid, Cholera, etc)
ASUU/Teachers Welfare: In Nigeria, it is the norm for ASUU to be on strike every year, making demands for its teachers’ union. At the moment, the ongoing ASUU strike has taken another toll on the educational sector, crippling academic activities in tertiary institutions since July 1st, 2013. It is easy to criminalize ASUU’s insensitivity on the future of our young people who have stayed at home this long. However, their demands are realistic: 30,000 staff members over 37 Federal Universities are asking for their N87bn promise to be met. Their total annual salary stands at N199bn. Compare that to the National Assembly’s N150bn; with just 469 members!
Out-Of-School Children: The Education For All report reveals that about 10.6 million Nigerians are out of school (of the 57 million worldwide). Providing classrooms for this children should be the utmost priority of the Nigerian government asides other incentives
Scholarships: N1trillion is enough to fund over 150,000 students in our tertiary institutions every year.
Hostels: If it takes TETFUND just N184m to construct 224 room hostels, imagine the number of hostels we can construct with N1trillion
Roads: Nigeria funds the 128km Lagos-Ibadan expressway with N167bn (http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/09/infrastructure-bank-to-raise-n167bn-for-lagos-ibadan-expressway/). The implications are that about 6 of this new expressway can be constructed with the N1trillion
Bridges: A second major bridge in Nigeria (and more) can be constructed with N1trillion.
Housing: Over 500,000 Nigerians can be housed with low cost housing units as seen in Festac Town, Lagos, Nigeria
Railways: Imagine the implications of freight and transport railways across nigeria, connecting towns to local areas, and states to states. Imagine the relief on transporting products from the north to the south, as well as the implications on cost of agricultural products amongst many other things.
With great knowledges comes great responsibility. Now that you know of the diverse implications N1trillion investment in our various sectors can bring, would you join other patriots this Thursday 26th September 2013 as we demand:
- Immediate comprehensive breakdown of their budgetary allocation of N150 billion for 2013.
- an account of the N1 trillion received since 2005 before the next recess in December.
- a functional contact information – numbers, email addresses and physical addresses of their constituency offices.We demand the names of at least two contact people attached to the numbers and email addresses.
- that ALL voting records on ALL constitutional amendments.
- that the attendance list for each plenary be made public.
No leader, no government, no organized force can stand in the way of an informed demanding Citizenry.
Keeping quiet at this juncture is not tenable. Join other patriots to make your demands known.
We cannot be Silent, No More!
AFRICA: SALVAGING EDUCATION USING TECHNOLOGY September 10, 2013Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, EDUCATION.
Tags: fibre optics, innovation, Nigeria, technology
add a comment
Every child, irrespective of race or religion, deserves two things — clean basic amenities and the right to good sound education. A peaceful future lies in the hands of an educated child. Despite all the advancements that the world has made, millions of children still cannot read and write. Across many states, the target of 100 percent attendance is already met or expected to be met by 2015, the latest data also shows that in 2011 there were still some 57 million children out of school. (Education for All Report). Of these 57 million children, 10.6 million are found in Nigeria, one of the sub-Saharan African nations.
Leveraging on technology to advance best practices accessible by citizens of the world is essential. Technology can facilitate individualized instruction so that each student can learn at his/her own pace. Through multimedia, videos and digital lessons; students can repeat a lesson if they had difficulty the first time or at any time as willed. With increasing technology use in education, it will be retrogressive to withhold children back. However, this must not be pursued without adequate understanding (and provisions for) other factors that may impede educational development.
The problems of emerging new education models that guarantee easy access to quality standards in learning in education are many for sub-Saharan Africa. Hence, if the rate of drop outs from schools is to be reduced substantially, there are many factors that need to be considered. A single story/approach will not suffice until a comprehensive understanding has been sought. For instance, reducing the cost to attend school as well as other basic incentives infrastructure is important to bridging the gap in some societies.
Essentially, to ensure an increased children’s access to quality primary education across sub-Saharan Africa, integrated programmes that eliminate the underlying obstacles that prevent children from going to school and learning must be worked on. Incentives such as free education (where possible), school feeding, de-worming activities, quality curriculum, literacy and numeracy through teacher training, standard classrooms, provision of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools are vital in increasing school attendance rates.
Political will: A look at sub-Saharan African countries – the Lions, will drive home the arguments. Cameroon, Senegal, Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritania, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Uganda. Bedeviling corruption and bad governance plaguing most of these African nations, it is left to wonder how committed its leaders will be in pursuing sound education methods that will free its citizenry from continued ignorance and bridge the inequality gap. Sound education strengthens the fight against poverty, political instability, prejudice, injustice, socio-economic inequalities, diseases, etc. This hugely contravenes the existence and perpetration of the status quo across sub-Saharan Africa.
Investment Cost: Investment in technology will ensure that quality education is accessible across board, by citizens in local and urban centres. The cost (fixed in many cases) that will transform sub-Saharan education, which can be provided by resource wealth from sub-Saharan African nations, may not be provided. Fibre optics, provision of technological gadgets (iPad, solar paneled laptops, etc), training; — not forgetting the various complications that may arise from its usage – often time impede the possibility of a technological bridge in education. Also, many African nations are landlocked, and this may increase the investment cost across regions. However, corporate governance may help solve this challenge, provided there is strong political will to assure corporations of compliance with terms.
Private investors in education as seen all over developed nations can leverage on this opportunity. “There are three strong players with millions of students and thousands of course offerings, all for free and available to anyone in the world. Coursera, Udacity, and edX have over four million enrolled students in their Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Online education platform Fenbi.com will close around a $7 million second round in the very near future, possibly next month, said Xiang Gao, partner at IDG Capital Partners, one of the investors in the deal. Also, this year’s maiden deal saw Shanghai-based Alo7, an English online language provider aimed at teaching three to 15-year olds, close a Series C round of funding of $10 million backed by Qualcomm Ventures, United Microelectronics Corporation and Vickers Venture Partners.” (http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2013/09/05/education-is-a-hard-lesson-for-chinese-investors/)
This shows that, for a technological driven education to resound, it has to be backed with increased, aggressive and continuous funding to ensure results. Investment will guarantee accessibility across board. This way, there would not be fluctuations in content or access to educational content whenever and wherever needed.
Policy continuation: Successive governments in sub-Saharan Africa play the propaganda tool (even when needless) to demonize erstwhile administrations. Indeed, Africa is replete of abandoned projects. While an administration may sufficiently provide the political will, investment and reform that is needed to guarantee a cutting edge technological-driven educational sector, successive governments may repeal this policies and lead years of quality investments to waste. Starting a technological revolution in education is not enough, continuity through guaranteed sustainability is important.
Local challenges: There are many factors that contribute to the drop-out rates in schools across sub-saharan Africa. Understanding this local challenge is the most important factor in providing what that state “needs”. Technology may not necessarily be the topmost priority in a state’s need to increase school attendance. It could be the provision of basic infrastructure such as classrooms. Prioritizing local needs will remain an important part of advancing sound education in sub-Saharan Africa.
Usage/Teacher training: Two states in Nigeria started the revolution in education for instance; Ekiti and Osun states respectively. As surveyed, besides providing technological equipments (Solar-powered laptops in Ekiti state and Opon Imo tablet in Osun states), usage remains an important part of quality education delivery. In many quarters, teachers are not even computer literate let alone savvy enough to devolve learning tools to students. Also, many students were found to utilize these resources for perverted interests (visiting pornography sites). These are not originally intended goals of technological provisions.
Besides, it is important to guarantee children’s cyber-safety and how to keep them from making mistakes online that could have devastating effects. Today, children are increasingly becoming targets of pedophiles. Thus, children will need to be trained about basics of cyber-safety such as never giving out personal information online like a full name, address or phone number. This could be a barrier as there are hardly enough precautions to ascertain these instructions are adhered to.
Africa is at the threshold of an amazing growth opportunity; leveraging on technology for its development. China did not have this privilege. Imagine the future of Nigeria; the socio-economic implications if those 10.6 million out-of-school children are re-absorbed back into schools. If sub-Saharan Africa will take advantage of technology, by understudying the various obstacles that could prevent its usage, leveraging on it would rapidly advance the common good, improve lives, lift many out of poverty (as China did with over 500 million people in 30 years), and bridge the inequality divide. If sub-Saharan governments will utilize this opportunity remains the greatest challenge!
Tags: Elrufai, Nigeria
add a comment
Nasir Ahmad Elrufai, OFR
My recent piece on the Fiscal Responsibility Commission elicited a wide range of responses on some of the key issues raised. Space will not permit me to publish every one of them, but the response below from a staff of the commission who prefers to remain anonymous raises even more salient questions.
Thank you, sir, for the above titled piece. Very precise and factual. I am a staff of the Commission and know from an insider’s experience that all you wrote about the FRC – of its inability to function according to the provision of the FRA that established it – is the true reflection of what is happening in the Commission.
But, Sir, when you ascribed the Commission’s inactive stance to the weakness of its management, I say you were understating the reality, the true situation in the Commission. The truth is that the Commission is saddled with an incompetent and corrupt management, a group of greedy people who are only out to satisfy their individual interest and nothing more.
The main problem here is that the aim and wisdom behind the establishment of Fiscal Responsibility Commission had been missed from the onset; the government appointed the wrong people to run the Commission. Of the whole six full time Commissioners plus the Chairman, only the Chairman and one of the Commissioners can be said to have full grasp of the meaning of FRA and the powers and functions of the Commission. The bulk of others are just there as appointees representing their respective geopolitical zone. You would be surprised to know that most of them lack even the basic knowledge on the FRA. And because they regard their appointment as an opportunity to further their interest including helping themselves with the Commission’s budgetary allocation, they are always at loggerheads fighting among themselves based on personal and selfish interests.
The Chairman, perhaps, due to his old age and recurrent health problem, is too weak to perform his duties. Somebody who cannot sit upright for good thirty minutes or walk few meters is definitely not the type to head this type of organization. He is always absent due to health problem; at times he runs the office from his home at Karu with staff shuttling between the Commission’s Headquarters and his house to convey files. He is always in and out of hospital among which is his frequent medical trip to India at the expense of the Commission. The Chairman is just too incapacitated to handle the job. That’s the reason most of the times he doesn’t know what is happening in the Commission as the rest of the Commissioners isolated the man, leaving him only as a figure head while they run the Commission on whims and caprices.
In fact the six full time Commissioners plus the four part time ones run the affairs of the Commission as if it is their personal property; there are no standing rules and procedures, everybody acts according to what suits his interest. They usurped everything and power concerning the activities of the Commission to themselves. The staff are reduced to mere spectators and at times treated like personal servants to the Commissioners. From their inception up to the time I am writing this, there’s nothing in place in terms of institutional framework for the working of the Commission; there are no working tools, no written condition of service, and no salary system. Since inception, the Commission conducted physical monitoring and evaluation of projects by the MDAs only once (in the 2nd quarter of this year). There is a whole directorate for monitoring and evaluation of which the staffs have been sitting idly without job to do.
The Commission is populated with bright young professionals with experience from various sectors, but the Commissioners would not allow them to work. There is general disenchantment now in the Commission; the staffs are frustrated to the highest level. There is no single staff that has been confirmed so far despite the fact that many have spent over three years in the commission. Those who can find jobs somewhere among the staff have left leaving the rest behind angry and frustrated.
How can you expect the Commission to sanction MDAs who trample the provisions of the FRA while the MDAs know that the Commission is a joke; nothing threatening will come out of it! The Commissioners, because of their glut, have turned the Commission into a corrupt, beggar-agency in front of the MDAs it is supposed to supervise. The NIMASA (among the scores of agencies that defied the Commission) you were talking about knew what they were doing when they ignored the Commission’s orders. At the end even when they were summoned to the Commission what happened? Where they sanctioned? After closed-door meeting with the Commission’s management, they all came out smiling and exchanging banters with the Commissioners! And up to today they have not submit the documents they were asked to submit, neither have they remit the monies in question.
Currently, there’s palpable situation in the Commission now resulting into mixed reactions, thanks to you write up. Just as the staffs are happy and jubilating for what you wrote, the management members are tensed and frightened. They just cancelled a scheduled meeting between the staff and the management which was supposed to hold today, Tuesday, due to fear that the staff will confront them.
Thank you, once again sir, for exposing the rot in the FRC.
KATSINA STATE’s “NO FUTURE” BUDGET by NASIR @elrufai July 12, 2013Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: budget, Elrufai, Katsina, Nigeria
add a comment
Katsina State’s “No Future” Budget
By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
In the days and weeks leading up to the faux pax that became the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) election, the Katsina state governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema was mentioned severally as a possible compromise candidate, largely on account of what some perceive as his ‘performance’ as governor. The same was said of late Umaru Yar’Adua even though most residents of the state vehemently disagreed then, and now. Shema is being touted as the likely running mate of President Jonathan if he is able to secure the nomination of his party to run for another term as president.
What is it about this man – Ibrahim Shema – that elicits such strongly ambivalent reactions? What is his style of governance and financial prudence, and why is it that so many think there is more to him that meets the eye in the way he runs Katsina state? How are the state’s finances and budget managed? If Shema is doing well in this area, why did the state house of assembly suspend the minority leader because he criticized the government’s poor budget implementation? We will analyze the 2013 budget of the state today to assist our readers answer some of these questions.
Barrister Ibrahim Shema claims to focus his administration’s six development priorities; Education, Agriculture, Human Development, Infrastructure, Health and Crafts. It appears that in Katsina lingo, human development does not equal investments in education and healthcare, as the three are treated separately. Beyond this definitional incompetence however, a look at Katsina’s 2013 budget reveals a level of policy misdirection, indeterminate political will to address the priorities of the state, allocation of funds to areas where monitoring is difficult, and level of non-implementation of past budgets that amounts to impunity.
First, a little history. Carved out of old Kaduna State in September 1987, Katsina is located in Nigeria’s North West and borders Niger Republic, Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa States. Its land mass is approximately 24,000 square kilometers with a population of about 5,801,584 people in 34 Local Government Areas. Its capital is Katsina City. The state has commercial deposits of kaolin and asbestos.
Then Colonel Abdullahi Sarki Mukhtar was the first governor of the state (September 1987-July 1988), and was succeeded by other military governors. The first civilian governor was Saidu Barda, while immediate past President Umaru Musa Yaradua governed the state from May 1999- May 2007. Katsina is home to two past presidents; Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and Umaru Musa Yaradua. Other Katsinawa dignitaries include late General Hassan Usman Katsina, Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former Chief Justice of the Federation Mohammed Bello, two past Inspector’s General of Police: Mohammed Dikko Yusuf and Ibrahim Coomassie, and pioneer Chairman of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Hamza Rafindadi Zayad amongst others. Katsina is home to some of the best and brightest of Nigerian public servants, politicians and military top brass. Will the state’s current budgetary practices produce such quality elites in the future? Let us present the data and you answer the question!
The total budget for Katsina State in 2013 is N112,757,487,475 (One Hundred and Twelve Billion, Seven hundred and Fifty Seven Million, Four Hundred and Eighty Seven Thousand, Four Hundred and Seventy Five Naira only). The budget would be financed through some N14, 561,712,643 or 12.9% of the proposed budget realizable from internally generated revenue and some N74.5bn (66.7%) receivable in Federal Allocation. With total revenues at N89bn, what is evident is that the state would need to borrow some N23bn or 20% of its budget from external sources – loans and grants.
The capital provision is some N80,931,809,320 (Eighty billion Nine hundred and Thirty One million, Eight hundred and Nine thousand, Three hundred and Twenty thousand naira only) which is a commendable 71.7% of the entire budget. The State has about 43 MDAs which would cost taxpayers some N31,825,678,155 (Thirty One billion Eight hundred and Twenty Five million, Six hundred and Seventy Eight thousand one hundred and fifty five thousand naira only) or 28.2% in recurrent expenditure – an average of about N700 million per MDA.
Personnel costs would gulp some 17.2% of the entire budget sum or N19,434,384,200 (Nineteen Billion Four Hundred and Thirty Four Million, Three Hundred and Eighty Four Thousand Two Hundred Naira Only) while overhead costs are N7,975,267,830 (Seven Billion Nine Hundred and Seventy Five Million Two Hundred and Sixty Seven Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty naira only) some 7.07% and consolidated revenue charge is apportioned N4,416,026,125 (Four Billion, Four Hundred and Sixteen Million, Twenty Six Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty Five naira Only) 3.9%.
With its projected internally generated revenue of N14,561,712,643, Katsina State has to rely on external loans or Federal allocations to fully fund its personnel cost or staff salaries which are only a part of its total recurrent budget. Plainly put, the state spends more than it earns on government bureaucracy, and falls in the class of “parastatal states” that cannot stand on their own without a lifeline from Abuja.
A sectoral breakdown of the capital allocation of the budget reveals the following structure: N31.3 billion (27.8%) for the economic sector, N16.5 billion (14.6%) for social services, N26.9 billion (23.9%) for regional development, N2.9 billion (2.6%) for general administration, N750 million (0.6%) for the legislature, a provision of N2 billion (1.7%) for miscellaneous expenses and a measly N341.4 million (0.3%) for the judiciary.
At N21.6 billion, the largest departmental allocation is for road construction, Education is allocated some N13.6 billion, Health got N1.6 billion, Agriculture which employs the majority of Katsina’s working population is allocated only N7.8 billion, and Water Supply some N9.5 billion. Are these capital investments enough to register sectoral improvements in the face of poverty challenges the state faces?
According to the Nigeria Poverty Profile (2010), the North West Zone has the highest incidence of absolute poverty in Nigeria with a 70% prevalence rate, the North East 69%, the North Central 59.5%, the South East 58.7%, the South South 55.9% and the South West 49.8%. At 74.5% Katsina State has the highest poverty prevalence amongst all states in the region and the Shema-led administration thus far has taken no deliberate steps to address this. Under the economic sector there is a paltry capital allocation of only N276 million (0.2%) to manufacturing, a paltry N214,019,000 (0.1%) capital provision for Women Empowerment under the Ministry of Women Affairs and only N100 million (0.08%) under the Ministry of Youth and Sports for the states Youth Empowerment Program (Youth Action Plan). These figures are absurd, demonstrating that there is no political will to address the endemic poverty facing most of the population in the state.
From the private sector angle, the state shows even more damning figures. The state has virtually no functioning private agro-allied and manufacturing facilities. According to the World Bank 2010 Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria rankings, the state is ranked 25 amongst the 36 Nigerian States and the FCT, it involves 9 procedures and would take 37 days to start a business in Katsina State. In light of the foregoing, it would be expected that the government would be investing heavily in small and medium enterprises, encouraging and incentivizing businesses to set up shop in the state through tax breaks and infrastructural investments with a view to creating a more conducive business climate. Sadly, this is not the case. Capital allocations for the 2013 fiscal year are N350million (0.3%) for Small and Medium Enterprises, only N280.8million (0.2%) for economic affairs, N1.3billion (1.2%) for finance, and low level of investments in providing municipal services and transportation that could lower the cost of doing business in the state.
Investments in education are ambivalent. While the Shema-led government deserves commendation for the expansion and modernization of classrooms in the state and for being the only Nigerian state with a Department for Girl Child Education and Child Development, teacher quality in the state is one of the worst in Nigeria. According to the UBEC 2010 education profile the qualified teacher to student ratio in Katsina State is 1 teacher to 208 students, its neighbor Kaduna has a ratio of 1 teacher to 58 students. And there is no indication of things getting better; in 2013, only N124,731,000 would be spent on recruiting new teachers, N55million would be spent on teacher welfare and N900million on grants and subventions. There appears to be no special and significant programme to raise teacher quality through training and other incentives.
There is a N12.5million provision for training and staff development and another N2million for in service training and workshop, however these provisions were also made in the 2012 budget with no actual expenditure as at December 31st the same year. One wonders what good these provisions are if they are simply recorded and not actually expended. Delaying or deferring training of staff is suicidal in this century. Katsina’s budget appears to be for debate and passage by the legislature but not for focused implementation!
Katsina has a JSS enrollment rate of about 33% and is the second lowest in the North West zone; Jigawa has the lowest enrollment rate with 22%. Zamfara has the highest enrollment rate with 53%, Kebbi 43%, Kaduna 38%, Kano 34%. Of 21,389 pupils from Katsina State that sat for the 2012 University and Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME), only 3767 scored 200 and above. It is clear that the state suffers a grave education deficit; the government has to channel its resources both financial and physical to training and re-training teachers and increasing school enrollment rates.
The health of Katsina citizens seems even worse than education in budgetary terms. According to the 2008 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), Katsina State has the highest incidence of teenage pregnancy in Nigeria with 65% of all cases recorded nationwide. In contrast, Edo State has the lowest rate at 2.9%. Mortality rate in Katsina is also high; the current teenage mortality rate is about 0.822 per 1000 women and the bulk of recorded incidences are from the North, with factors ranging from unsafe abortions, pregnancy complications, poor antenatal care that lead to the increase of birth related deaths which abound in Katsina. Katsina was one if worst places in the world to be a teenage girl based on the NDHS of 2008 under Shema’s watch.
The state has shown some efforts to stemming this tide though, even if too little too late – some N180 million is set aside for purchase of drugs and dressing, N400 million for staff training and development. A 169 bed Turai Yaradua maternal and child hospital has been completed at a cost of N860.5 million, a N552 million provision is also made for a 270 bed orthopedic hospital which would reportedly cost the state N1.6 billion upon completion. All these include about N185 million that was spent in 2009 to purchase 34 mobile ambulances which have thus far eased the provision of health services to rural communities.
The spending priorities of the Shema led government puts road construction as its first priority, this is hardly ideal considering that the state has a high disease burden, the country’s highest poverty rate and a crumbling education system. What Katsina needs more of is not roads but more education and healthcare investments. Road contracts are easy to award to party apparatchiks and well-connected construction firms, while raising quality of human capital is harder and less profitable. The choice is up to Shema to make.
The state must refocus its priorities beginning with a slimmer and cost efficient government. It must also as a matter of urgency allocate more funds to education, health and agriculture. It must invest more in providing potable water for the population as well as to farmers for irrigation. Katsina must lower its cost of doing business and evolve innovative ways to begin the exploration and export of its abundant mineral resources. That is the only way to secure the future of Katsina’s young people. The current approach only makes Shema and his small circle of political actors happy while the future looks bleak for the many.
Tags: Elrufai, Nigeria
1 comment so far
A few days ago, the minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned that economic activities may be shut down and that the Federal Government may be unable to pay its workforce by September if government failed to resolve the lingering problems with the 2013 Appropriation Act. The fact that the Federal Government is still talking about this year’s budget seven months into the year is indicative of weak fiscal practices and management at all levels of government. Sadly, the effects of government inertia would worsen matters for economically vulnerable Nigerians – a group that has grown significantly in size since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office.
Considering how dependent the Nigerian economy is on government activities, it is inevitable that the budgetary inertia will further exacerbate poverty and unemployment and slow down what is essentially a jobless GDP growth in the face of increasing poverty. How did things get to this stage? Are there no mechanisms in place to check the attitude of government and its numerous agencies to fiscal responsibility?
Actually, there are several agencies of government charged with this task, except that perhaps taking a cue from the head of government, many of them are asleep, and if anything and have themselves, become part of the problem. It is therefore imperative that we examine some of these MDAs in a bid to highlight their purpose, effectiveness and productivity since their establishment. In continuance of our analysis of MDAs set up by the Federal Government, the first spotlight will be on the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC).
It was then Vice President Atiku Abubakar that first persuaded the National Economic Council to approve a fiscal management framework for the federation in 2001, along the lines adopted by the Brazilian Federation. The Fiscal Responsibility Bill was thereafter initiated by the Obasanjo Economic Team (2003-2007) to ensure the coordination of national economic policy between various tiers of government, and enable monitoring of agencies that are ‘off-budget’ but whose activities have significant impact on fiscal policies. The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) was enacted in 2007 ‘to provide for prudent management of the Nation’s Resources, ensure long-term Macro-Economic stability of the National Economy, and secure greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within the Medium Term Fiscal Policy Framework. The FRA established the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to ensure the promotion and enforcement of the Nation’s Economic objectives; and for related matters’. However, it was not until 2008 that the chairman and members of the commission were appointed, under the leadership of Alhaji Aliyu Jibril Yelwa.
The FRA in itself is a laudable legislation if it is implemented to the letter as conceived by the Economic Team. However, five years since the establishment of the commission, are there any achievements to show for it or is it just another drainpipe for the nation’s resources? Is the current administration enabling the commission to fulfill its obligations or is it a stumbling block to its overall productivity. Is the FRC an agency that is necessary or is it just another institution with substantially overlapping functions of another in existence? We shall try to answer these and assess the commission’s performance thus far vis-à-vis its statutory mandate.
In clear terms, the FRC is responsible for monitoring budget implementation in the various MDAs at both the Federal and State levels to avoid mismanagement of public funds. The commission is also responsible for ensuring that annual budgets are derived from the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) prepared by the Ministry of Finance for a period of three financial years, and approved by the National Assembly. According to the FRA, every government corporation is required to establish a general reserve fund where 20% of its operating surplus is allocated annually while the balance is to be paid into the Federal Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund. The commission is also required to publish, on a quarterly basis, a list of each of the tiers of governments in the federation that have exceeded the limits of consolidated debt, indicating the amount by which the limit is exceeded.
So far, attempts at implementation of the FRA are mainly at the Federal level. This is grossly insufficient given that the sub-national governments (states and local governments) control over 50 percent of nationally-shared revenue. Available data collated in 2010 indicated that only 20 out of the 36 states in the Federation had initiated the process of Fiscal Responsibility legislation. Apart from enacting the fiscal responsibility laws, there is a major problem with implementation. There still exists sickening mismanagement of public funds across MDAs with huge figures appropriated in the budget and no corresponding capital investments to show for it. The FRC which is the body responsible for ensuring fiscal responsibility and the due implementation of budgets and projects is lax about fulfilling its role.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives revealed that 60 government agencies generated N9.3trn in three years (2009-2012) but only remitted N174.9bn to the coffers of Federal Government. In its report titled, “Poor Remittance of Internally Generated Revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) by Government Owned Agencies”, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Authority (NIMASA), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and National Pension Commission (PENCOM) are among the defaulting agencies being scrutinized. It was discovered that they habitually under-projected their revenues and over-estimated their expenditures thereby ensuring that their remittances to the CRF were minimal, if any at all.
Just last month, the Federal Ministry of Finance threatened to close accounts of agencies which had failed to remit revenues to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). Apparently, the practice is for these government agencies to invest the excess funds generated in dodgy and unapproved accounts which yield high interest for the few engaged in these shady deals.
Sadly, the above cases of misappropriation of public funds were not queried by the FRC whose primary responsibility it is to carry out such activities. It is public knowledge that the FRC had sometime last year demanded that NIMASA render audited accounts, but the FRC’s demands were blatantly ignored, without any consequences. What is the purpose of the FRC if it can only bark but not bite?
Several countries such as India and Brazil have enacted Fiscal Responsibility laws to strengthen their fiscal institutions and establish a broad framework of fiscal planning successfully. In India, the union government passed the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act in 2003, a year later, all 28 states replicated the Act. Brazil passed a Fiscal Responsibility Law in 2000 which applies uniformly to the federal, states and municipal governments. The Brazilian law set out borrowing criteria and penalties for default of this rule. It placed limits on public spending, the size of the fiscal deficit, and public debt, and disallows debt refinancing between the state and central governments. It was the Brazilian success that Nigeria sought to learn from.
As expected, in India, the fiscal responsibility law positively improved the management of public debt both at the Federal and State Government levels and within the first six (6) years of its operation, India recorded a 4.4% and 4.8% reduction in Central and State Government debts respectively. Brazil on the other hand, 9 years after strict adherence to the Fiscal Responsibility laws, occupies ninth position in the league of the most 20 developed countries in the world. In the case of Nigeria, the external debt stock has doubled from $3.3bn in 2007 when the FRA was enacted to $6.7bn by March 2013. What then, is the purpose of this legislation in the Nigerian instance, if our debt stock is on the increase?
Incidentally, two years ago, the federal government set-up a committee headed by then Head of Service of the Federation, Steve Orosanye, to restructure and rationalize the public service. One of the expected outcomes was the reduction of the cost of governance by reducing the duplicity and overlapping functions inherent in the current structure of the Public Service of the federation.
According to the Orosanye report, there exists about 541 government agencies and parastatals which have huge financial implications for the nation especially when their productivity does not measure up to their running costs. Some of the recommendations of the report included merging, reversing and abolishing certain Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). It is opined that if the recommendations of the Orosanye report are implemented to the letter, it would potentially save the country N862bn by 2015, nearly a fifth of the annual federal budget.
The Orosanye Committee report rightly observed that the FRC has a similar mandate with the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) whose function is to “Monitor the accruals into and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account”. With a 2013 budget of N592m for a commission whose responsibilities are partly being carried out by the Ministry of Finance, House of Representatives and the RMAFC, it is questionable is this is money well spent.
The structure, implementation process and weak leadership are encumbrances to the FRC living up to its maximum potentials. The authority of the commission in ensuring fiscal responsibility is neither acknowledged nor adhered to. The commission on its part has been lethargic in identifying, investigating and prosecuting MDAs and tiers of government that are suspected of squandering the nation’s resources. The reported amount of funds unaccounted for in the last 3 years alone is almost equivalent to the federal budget for two years! Then again, this state of affairs may just suit President Jonathan and the party at the helm. When everybody in government is bathing in mud of funds diversion, who can point the accusing fingers?
NLC and Minimum Wage: The Task Ahead July 3, 2013Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
add a comment
Once again the issue of minimum wage is reverberating in the Nigerian media following the consideration by the National Assembly to move it from the exclusive list to the concurrent list in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. By that proposal of the National Assembly, Part I, item 34 of Second Schedule will be amended to move the sentence “prescribing a national minimum wage for the Federation or any part thereof” to Part II.
The NLC has registered its opposition to this proposal arguing that the “removal will unnecessarily expose Nigerian workers, especially those in the low-income bracket with grave implications for security, productivity and national well-being, as most state governments if given the latitude, will pay wages as low as one thousand Naira per month in spite of the relative enormous resources available to them.” This was contained in a statement by the NLC President, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar.
While the position of the NLC is very understandable, it is however founded on a very weak and erroneous premise. In the first place there is the implicit assumption that there is relatively “enormous resources available” to all governments and perhaps all employers in the country. Related to that is the apparent conclusion that the “enormous resources” are equitably distributed to all employers across the country, be it public or private.
It needs to be emphasised that minimum wage law is applicable to all employers – private and public. Partly because the process leading to passage of the 2010 Minimum Wage Act was dictated by the capacity of the Federal Government to pay N18,000 should not cover the reality that many employers, including some state governments have been unable to implement the N18,000 minimum wage. This much was acknowledged in the statement by Comrade Omar. This highlights the existence of a problem which may also translate into wiping out some small employers out of business with the consequence of all workers employed by such employers thrown back to the labour market.
There is certainly both conceptual and empirical problem with respect to the framework for minimum wage legislation in Nigeria. While it may be advantageous today for Nigerian trade unions based on some faulty notion of statutory awards that would threatened employment as well as almost proved impossible for unions to enforce, it could be debated that in the long run it may be a disadvantage. Imagine a scenario whereby either price of Nigerian crude in the international market crashed or the market become smaller. If the argument for “enormous resources” is informed by current revenue from oil as determinant for minimum wage and not workers output or production levels, the NLC position with respect to minimum wage is to say the least injurious to Nigerian workers.
The point is, it is wrong to hinge argument for current statutory framework for minimum wage in Nigeria based on a pedestrian belief that there is relatively “enormous resources”. Relative to what? This is the common perception in the country today, which has impacted negatively on productivity and has virtually reduced most Nigerians to rent-seeking behaviours. The dignity of labour and the human person is commonly sacrificed on the alter cheap search for free money. Contractual responsibilities have been reduced to nothing.
It is important to emphasise that relatively “enormous resources” is a perception that is easily justifiable with reference to perhaps current levels of revenue from crude oil and not necessarily taking into account work indices, especially issues of workers output and its contribution to national wealth. Against the background that today, Nigeria earns more than N8 trn annually largely from crude oil, the temptation to conclude that our governments at all levels enjoy relatively “enormous resources” is appealing.
No doubt, with reference to our recent past as a nation whereby the total annual revenue of government was in the region of N2 trn, current levels of N8 trn is relatively “enormous”. The critical reality however is that this increase in revenue is not shared proportionately. On account of what can we regard states like Ebonyi and Nasarawa as enjoying “enormous resources” with less than N4 billion monthly from the Federation Account, while states like Akwa Ibom and Rivers receive more than N20 billion monthly. Perhaps with reference to a personnel cost of approximately N500 million for Ebonyi and Nasarawa, the argument for “enormous resources” may be sustained.
This financial profile is almost re-enforced by IGR profile of these states. Based on CBN 2010 Report, Akwa Ibom is reported with more than N1 billion monthly IGR and Rivers close to N5 billion monthly. Contrastingly, Nasarawa and Ebonyi were reported with less than N200 million monthly IGR. Now what will be the logic of equating the pay of workers in Akwa Ibom and Rivers with that of Nasarawa and Ebonyi?
With monthly personnel cost of approximately N500 million and monthly IGR of under N200 million, a situation where FAAC receipt crashed can be better imagined. How then can anyone be making a case for wages based on such a loose foundation? In many cases, one is tempted to argue that NLC argument as presented by Comrade Omar is driven by large dose of intellectual and organisational indolence. Given that Nigerian trade unions are almost completely absent today in all our national policy debates, they have lost rational reasoning and relied more on grandstanding and brinksmanship as a strategy, which has reduced NLC’s, and of course trade unions’ pre-occupation in the country to dominantly that of organising strikes. Nigerians today hardly hear of NLC and trade unions activities except when strikes are declared.
Logically and historically, this will not be defensible. NLC and Nigerian trade unions have been vibrant centres of first and foremost intellectual contestation which get reflected and manifest in the way union leaders relate with governments. That was the reality that projected union leaders as popular representatives of Nigerian people from the days of Imoudu to more recent eras of Summonu, Chiroma, Pascal and Adams. Unfortunately, that is withering away with the current generation of union leadership. It is a painful reality, which accounts for such faulty and weak arguments with respect to minimum wage. This needs to be addressed urgently.
The point is, elementary analysis would caution about the consequence of adopting a bandwagon framework for minimum wage legislation that is not informed by economic indices that are related to work output. Such a framework can only result in either shortchanging workers in high-revenue states/areas or over-stretching employers in low-revenue states/areas. Certainly, a review of wage fixing theories would highlight these challenges and perhaps dangers.
It needs to be stated emphatically and unequivocally that although there is increased revenue which has resulted in improved financial profile of especially states and federal governments in the country, it has not favourably alter the structure of government finances. The main predictable reasons would be factors of corruption. Besides, given characteristically unstable international oil market, current levels of oil revenue are hardly sustainable and therefore to plot them as determining variables for price indices such as minimum wage with long term implications would be almost suicidal.
Be that as it may, there are certainly challenges that need to be addressed. The challenges border on ensuring that there is in truth “enormous resources” to guarantee higher levels of wages in the country, in the context of which issues of minimum wage can be correctly computed taken all indices into account. NLC should approach this based on a strategy of strengthening its own organisational capacity and not look for easy quick-wins that are not sustainable, which include a faulty constitutional provision such as the provision of item 34, Part 1 of Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.
As it stand, item 34 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule is not is not sustainable and could only expose Nigerian workers to greater risks and danger. Being conversant with internal logic influencing leadership thinking in Nigerian trade movement, it is quite worrisome that NLC is approaching these matters less objectively. It has never been the case that workers will get justice on matters of employer/employee relations bordering on pay and entitlements with simple reference to the law. Had that been the case, there would be no need for unions. The business of unions will always be to develop strategies and carry out actions that can result in improved working conditions and better pay. These are issues bordering on workers input to the process of revenue generation. The big worry is when matters of pay and benefits are delinked from these factors, which appears to be the logic of the NLC argument with respect to national minimum wage legislation in Nigeria.
Of course it could be argued that this has been the case, perhaps since the 1970s. That it has been the case does not make it right. What has been the tradition of NLC and Nigerian trade unions is the courage to campaign for what is right especially in relation to workers benefits and welfare. It is a matter that requires good measure of intellectual and political capacity. The position of NLC with respect of minimum wage fixing in Nigeria is weak intellectually and politically unfounded.
Part of the political imperative is the need to engage our national politics in such a way that workers entitlements are not threatened by factors of bad governance which include corruption. This is where the recent NLC scorecard is low especially given the standards that it is known for. NLC’s voice on matters related to our political development as a nation has been very remote. Partly as a result of that, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had at the TUC Conference on June 21challenged organised labour “to stand up and be counted”.
Union organisation and their political roles on matters of governance are important in this respect. Somehow, it would appear that Nigerian trade unions, including the NLC have vacated their political roles and in the circumstance their capacity to correctly assess national realities and intervene based on rational consideration is weak. In so many ways, Nigerian trade unions and NLC are very lucky to have rich reservoir of history and public goodwill on account of which currently leadership seems to be very relaxed.
In summary therefore, the message to NLC and all Nigerian trade unions is that they need to wake up and reconnect themselves with their historic responsibilities. This calls for good initiatives towards organisational strengthening, conscious effort to produce knowledgeable leadership with high integrity and above all high moral standing. Challenges facing Nigerian workers today go beyond legal provisions. It is more a capacity issue in many respect. A situation where the main business of unions is only strikes with hardly no voice on national policy and governance issues will at best project unions and their leaders as pedestrians and opportunistic, which over the years they have proved not to be.
Nigerian unions and NLC in particular have always been source of hope for our country at very trying period. So far, Comrade Omar and his team in NLC can do much more. Their intellectual, political and organisational capacity can provide much more than what they are give the nation today. The danger is that current leadership of NLC and Nigerian trade unions may be presiding over the systematic demobilisation of Nigerian workers. They need to consciously prevent that from happening.
add a comment
In his book, The Age of Turbulence, economists and former Chairman of US Federal Reserve (1987 – 2006), Alan Greenspan asked the question, “How do we reform government and return money and power back to the American people”. This question is perhaps more valid today in Nigeria than could have been the case in the United States in 2006. Probably in response, President Obama while visiting South Africa remarked that “terrorism is more likely to succeed in countries that are not delivering for their people and where there are areas of conflict and underlying frustrations that have not been adequately dealt with”.
The question of delivery is certainly about the existence of opportunities, how citizens are able to access them and convert into income or welfare benefits. Unfortunately, in our case, there has been systematic contraction of available opportunities, access has been privatised and virtually restricted to functionaries of government and therefore capacity to earn income or enjoy any form of welfare benefit is correlated with access to government.
This has consistently been the situation perhaps since the days of military rule, from the mid 1980s. The coming of democracy in 1999 could have altered this but sadly has been very slow if not strongly enforcing situations of denials for most citizens. It could be argued that this is very subjective. With prohibitive levels of poverty, which the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimate at an average of 69% and unemployment of about 24%, the question will be what is being done to ameliorate the situation.
It could be justified that it should not be the sole responsibility of government to ameliorate this unfavourably bad situation. However, to the extent that government responsibilities include public services and guaranteeing economic stability, government’s capacity to come with initiatives that create opportunities and widen access for citizens become important.
Two fundamental preconditions for this to successfully take place are leadership astuteness on the one hand and right sets of actions or programmes, on the other. In summary the competence of our leaders to be able to drive governance process to produce desired results – improved welfare and higher living conditions for citizens. Issues of knowledge and experience supposedly play central roles and in a democracy whereby citizens elect their leaders, these should have been the guide.
With largely money and other sentiments, cheaply ethnicity and religion, becoming primary, the possibility of leaders emerging without any understanding of the problems facing society and therefore incapable of initiating any action or programme is very common. In fact, the dominant perception among contemporary Nigerian leaders is that the country is endowed with all the needed resources. The major problem therefore is the share of it that gets to them, whether at the federal, state, local government or even nongovernmental organisations. This then means that preoccupation of government excludes issues of wealth creation.
On account of this, citizens are regarded as liabilities and parasites and exclusive in discussing resources of the country. This is informed by an ideological mindset that is revisionist and departs from the classical economic dictum that identified land, labour, capital and entrepreneurs as the four factors of production. In the Nigerian case, the only factor of production is land largely limited to the oil producing communities which is the one that generate virtually all the resources of government.
With the high foreign content of the oil sector, capital and entrepreneur are hardly Nigerian. This reduced Nigerian citizens and nearly all other parts outside oil producing areas as imaginary in the psyche of our leaders. To realise the much talked about government revenue, our leaders really don’t need much in Nigeria beyond the oil producing land.
In the circumstance, all the priorities of our leaders is reduced to simplified projects that hardly go beyond buildings and physical installations without necessarily paying attention to issues of human development focusing on education and healthcare services. Classrooms and schools get constructed that way without worrying about or recruiting teachers that can use the classrooms and schools to teach pupils and students. Hospitals, clinics and primary healthcare centres are built without concern for doctors, nurses and other medical staff to use the structures to attend to patients.
With this strongly perverted capitalist ideological bent influenced by wrong application of IMF/World Bank prescriptions, which emphasises deregulation of public services and increased role of private sector, the dominant approach is to surrender key functions of government to private operators. Through that, public resources get diverted to so-called private operators with zero value input. In terms of qualification, the most important factor is relationship with functionaries of government. Knowledge is immaterial. Thus, the resort to coercion is easy and almost given. Citizens’ willingness to respect the conduct of these so-called private operators is not stimulated by the services they provide but out of compulsion.
Yet, as citizens, we continue to hear statements about dividend of democracy and performance of governments. How can anyone be talking about dividend of democracy or performance when poverty has increased from an average of 54% in 1999 to 69% today? Where is the dividend or performance when the reward to citizens for living in a country that its government recorded increased revenue from N8 trn between 2002 and 2006 to N8 trn annually today is increased poverty and unemployment?
However considered the situation simply alienates citizens and translate to outright denial. Almost all the resources of society become controlled by the few functionaries of government and their hangers on. Citizens have very little influence, if any at all. It has been our national reality since the period of military rule and our democracy is yet to produce any alternative.
The hope of many Nigerians is that the birth of APC should translate into an alternative – the emergence of competent leaders with clear knowledge and good initiative. Should APC reduce the challenge of leadership to simple issues of ethno-religious factors, its capacity to respond effectively to the task of returning money (resources) and power to Nigerian people would have been weakened. The reality is that once ethno-religious factors are the most important qualifications, the loudest of those demanding for leadership will be empty and all they will be aspiring for is simply access these resources that are in the custody of government and covert them to privatised use.
Nigerians are hungry for knowledgeable leaders coming with good initiatives to produce a new beginning for the country. A new beginning that translates into government at all levels emerging as strong facilitators for economic activities with democratised access to opportunities for all citizens irrespective of religion, ethnicity or any other form of differences. The primacy of knowledge and experience should therefore replace ethno-religious consideration.
Our democracy should begin to produce a shift in the way leaders emerge in Nigeria from cheap ethno-religious to the primacy of knowledge.
add a comment
Divide and rule is by far the dominant strategy in Nigeria’s contemporary politics. It thrives on zoning and rotation of political offices with aspiring candidates for leadership at all levels of government and society cheaply brandishing their religious and ethnic credentials over any other qualification. Admittedly, in terms of educational qualifications, virtually all aspirants meet the minimum constitutional requirement. Although we have some cases whereby leaders are found to have presented wrong qualifications, often because of some manifestation of inferiority complex which made our aspirants and even so-called leaders to claim advanced educational qualifications. And given our current national pathetic proclivity for titles, some leaders have also commercially acquired educational titles such as Doctors and even B. Sc and M. Sc certificates from doubtful sources. On the whole however, it can be argued that predominantly our political leaders are more driven by ethnic and religious sentiments and hardly governing our nation and society based on knowledge and commitment to ensure that Nigerian citizens overcome challenges of survival and the quest for improved livelihood.
Thus, the big issue is whether such knowledge acquired through formal educational, which so-called qualifications comes with suggest competence and capacity to perform leadership tasks as required by the offices being aspired. Aside competence, there is also the demand for leadership vision and capacity to prioritise and take the right decisions. Ahead of all these is the critical leadership responsibility of coordinating and managing human relations in its broad context, which requires not just friendly dispositions but being open and accessible to all irrespective of differences. These are requirements that endear leaders and societies to citizens even beyond their immediate domain and are often part of the attractions that invites other non-residents to explore opportunities in communities other than their own.
A quick assessment of developments in Nigeria, at all levels since the mid 1990s will highlight remarkable departure and erosion of especially leadership values. At all levels of Nigerian society, standards have crashed and leadership requirements have been reduced to purely material (money) wellbeing. Anyone with money can buy his/her way to power at all levels, be it local governments, states, federal government and even nongovernmental organisations. In the circumstance, people with poor knowledge, without any vision, lacking of any priority and often of doubtful integrity are vested with leadership responsibility. Citizens are coerced, blackmailed or hoodwinked to support so-called leaders based on primordial sentiments with our leaders hardly challenged to win support of other Nigerians beyond their immediate narrow support base, often limited to their birth places, local governments, senatorial district, states, geo-political zone and hardly the nation as a whole.
Ethnic and religious factors have therefore emerged today as perhaps the most defining factors for contest for leadership positions in the country. As a result, there are incidences whereby leaders are produced with very narrow and parochial perception of their constituencies. In many cases, they even emerged just based on the endorsements of sections and few members. Even the practice of campaigns using posters, handbills and media hardly takes place, and if it does, it is reduced to mere symbolism. It is just simply a case of arrogance and contemptuous disrespect of the support of other sections and citizens other than so-called birth places, local governments, senatorial districts, states and geo-political zones.
This practice is widespread in many of our political institutions today. A visit to many seats of governments at all levels is enough to make any genuine Nigerian sick. Perhaps, it can be argued that this has been with us as a nation since independence. In some ways, it is an acceptable norm and little or nothing can be done about it. Yet, to the extent that it projects us as a fractured nation and promotes primordial hatred and anger, it constitutes a major national problem. How can we address this big national problem? Is there any possibility, however remote, that Nigeria can produce a leader who is not just a sectional leader? Or, is there anything that can be done to transform any of our leaders today from being narrowly perceived as a sectional leader to a national leader? By the way, what is the prospect that Nigeria’s problems can be solved by producing a national leader as opposed to sectional leaders? Anyway, what is wrong with sectional leaders? Have they not been serving their people? Do we even have leaders?
Our notion of leadership and assessment of their relevance to societal problems, in every respect, will influence our judgement with respect to these questions. To the extent that leadership is about having unregulated and unaccountable access to public resources, competition for leadership will continue to be driven by sentiments. Once leadership is blind to the issue of nurturing good human relations, our societies and nation will be highly vulnerable to reckless and crazy management of governmental and non-governmental affairs. So long as competition for leadership in our society and nation is reduced to our identity and the hegemonic drive for dominating others, knowledge and the challenge of environmental control will be a distant responsibility, if at all.
Without any doubt, if we want to survive as a nation, we must change our ways of producing leaders in every facet of our national life as Nigerians. We need a leader that is driven by knowledge, aspiration to unite our people across religion, ethnicity and all other differences, burning desire to reposition our society based on the capacity of citizens to discover their talents, respecting the values of the human person over and above any other thing and therefore recognising that the most fundamental asset of our nation is its citizens and to that extent not perceiving citizens as parasitic and the biggest liability.
How can this be done given a situation where the most important source of government revenue is the oil sector, which is a sector where government really don’t need the participation of citizens to be able to realise revenue? Why should government and our leaders respect citizens when in truth all they need is OPEC, US government, EU and other oil trading partners to be able to realise all the revenue needed to run government? With oil exploration and extraction being the direct responsibility of the Federal Government on account of which our states and local governments enjoyed huge revenue from the federation account for almost doing nothing in the process of revenue generation, why should the Federal Government not dictate to states and local governments? How can we be making any claims to federalism, when in fact our governance reality is anything but federal?
At the root of our leadership problems are so many issues that require urgent attention. It is beyond simply focusing on the individual. If the truth is to be told, government as oriented today is the source of our leadership problems. It is a situation that is known to virtually every Nigerian. Unfortunately, at best, almost every Nigerian only lament about it and conclude that nothing can be done to change it. This has given rise to a situation whereby all our governments are simply on auto pilot just facilitating importation and consumption with virtually the only production taking place being crude oil extraction.
This is a matter that calls for organised political initiatives based on selflessness and patriotic disposition. Unfortunately, most of our political actors are more driven by personal aspiration which weakened their capacity to develop the needed group approach. On account of personal aspirations, most of our political leaders are very defensive and susceptible to narrow and parochial approaches. With revenue given, all they need to worry about is not citizens’ contributions especially given zero correlation between government revenue and economic reality of citizens. All they need to worry about is perhaps their capacity to dominate citizens, which in the midst of high poverty levels money has become the main factor. The challenge therefore before anyone interested in addressing problems of leadership in Nigeria will be to initiate strategic approaches of organising Nigerian citizens around the values of re-inventing communal spirits of mobilisation and pulling resources together to drive initiative.
This is a critical rescue factor to pull Nigeria out of all the calamities facing the nation with all its varied manifestation. It is a factor that required everyone genuinely interested in moving Nigeria forward as a nation to submit and subordinate himself/herself to. This will be far more effective if driven by a superior political organisation such as a political party. The reason being that a superior political organisation would have the advantage of both legal and moral ambiance, which would engender not just commitment regarding leadership conduct by individuals but also prescribe orderly processes of nurturing citizens who subscribe to new conduct, including those of our leaders based on the need to create new outcomes that may perhaps place more premium on the welfare of citizens. Accordingly, issues of tax and how it translate into strong revenue sources for governments at all levels could then create a positive correlation between citizens welfare and governance at all levels.
Of course against the background of deep national frustration, there is often the temptation to reduce these issues to simple leadership change focusing on personalities. In today’s reality it is producing a strong clamour against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Being in power, especially at federal level since 1999, such clamour would not be without justification. In fact, with rising oil revenue and at the same time geometric rise in poverty levels, the clamour against PDP is very legitimate. However, Nigerians, especially opposition politicians, need to be very clear that simply changing individual leaders without clear governance programmes to address the fundamentals that makes citizens inconsequential will not move our nation forward. In fact, from the experiences of some of our state governments between 1999 and today where new leaders emerged as state Governors after elections but end up doing worse than the PDP government they defeated, is an indication that the problem goes beyond individuals.
In a sense, combinations of programmes and good mobilisational strategies is what is needed. Endearing programmes and unifying strategy – a strategy that strongly unite Nigerians – is what is needed to defeat PDP and guarantee that such a defeat would produce new governance reality founded on respect for the contributions of citizens. This is largely because the PDP has designed power architecture for the country around divisive politics in the name of zoning and rotation and so far programmes implemented by PDP are anchored with outright disregard to citizens. Once opposition politicians relate to Nigerian politics based on PDP power architecture, it will almost be impossible to defeat PDP. If that happens, it will purely amount to Pyrrhic victory and will hardly be capable of changing the welfare conditions of Nigerians.
This is where our opposition parties working to produce All Progressive Congress (APC) need to concentrate in producing new power architecture. Somehow, it would appear that either that the PDP public relations machinery is at its best and is succeeding to force the hands of our opposition political leaders to limit their objective to producing so-called individual leaders or that actually our opposition political leaders have not realised the full weight of responsibility facing them and to that extend they are about to squander golden historic opportunity by limiting the problems of Nigeria to emergence of new leaders. Be that as it may, the issue before APC at this stage is to stimulate a national commitment to produce new power architecture for the country. Such new power architecture should be oriented to unite Nigerians, promote and proliferate competitive activities and in the process throw up leaders at different levels of party organisations and society through innovative applications of democratic principles.
As much as personal attributes are important, it must not be projected in such a way as to suggest primacy of the individual. In some ways, corresponding initiatives from citizens with good interface with our political structures, in this case, APC will be a strong catalyst to enable our opposition politicians meet this national expectation. Instead of folding our arms as citizens and waiting for our opposition politicians to rollout APC with all the risk factors of modelling it in the image of PDP, Nigerian patriots need to think more strategically and initiate corresponding political actions that would naturally compel a strong relationship and influence between APC and organised interests in the country. Absence of such initiative have the undesirable potential of pushing APC to adopt the same divisive governance architecture as PDP and in the process increased the probability of PDP remaining in power at all levels of government in Nigeria, way beyond 2015. Should that happen, both APC leaders and patriotic Nigerians should bear responsibility.
The choice is both for APC as well as for all Nigerians to make!